Another guest post is by our pal and regular TPC contributor, David Garber:
From time to time, on this very site, Laffy and Paddy post very interesting bar bets. Sure ways you’ll win a free drink if you can find a sucker to take them. I love those as there’s always a catch. A gimmick. A “trick” either with words or with actions. Some of these simply amaze me. Others cause you to slap your forehead and make you ask, why didn’t I see that?
But once in a while, you do “see that” or you amend the challenge so it goes in your favor. The sequester is just such a bar bet.
Here’s how. The Republicans and Democrats bet they can make each other blink first. That’s the misdirect. They have you thinking about blinking, when really what this is all about is getting some budget cuts — with or without increased revenue — depending on your point of view.
So the gauntlet is tossed. It’s called sequestration. The Democrats make a go of it by playing Chicken Little. They say the sky’s falling. The Republicans counter playing Rope-A-Dope. They say we need even deeper cuts and no revenue increase. We don’t want to touch taxing yachts, private jets, or cutting write-offs for third and fourth houses. (Some might call this the 2% rule as it affects only the top 2% of the country) — and while we’re at the cutting stage, let’s drop a bunch of our social safety nets, just to be on the “safe” side and get the Dems to blink. (That’s called sticking it to the 98%)
The cocky Congress accepts the bet. Sequestration, the challenge, begins. But neither side blinks. So who wins? The Republicans say they do. “Look at all those cuts we got in sequestration ” The Democrats are saying, “Not so fast. Look at all the jeopardy you’re causing by weakening our defense, gumming up our air travel and putting our health and food safety at risk!”
The payoff is about to come. And just like hearing an old joke, you know the punchline before it comes — but also like an joke, it’s only old if you’re heard it before. And we have. The Republicans say we’re not weak on defense, we’re strong. And they pull out the old, “Let’s create a new spending bill and only address those things we want put back in the budget and even increase defense spending to show our steel balls. We have the majority in the House. We can pass it and save the day.” The Republicans to the rescue.
They’ll force Obama and the Democrats to look weak on defense and border protection if they don’t go along. They calculate that the Democrats will blink. The House is in Boehner’s pocket on this one. And the Senate won’t have enough Democrats who are strong enough to vote against national security to stop the new spending bill to make it to Obama’s desk.
But wait! It’s a bar bet after all. And there’s always a gimmick.
The Democrats counter, taken directly from the Republican play book — load the bill down with totally unrelated additions. Tack on teaching, research, first-responders, air traffic controllers, airport security, FDA funding, et al — maybe even a new bridge to nowhere– everything else that has been cut under sequestration, forcing the spotlight on the Republicans as they try to pare those additions from the bill.
The spotlight moves off of the Dems and onto the Repubs, making them look like obstructionist weaklings — and who can argue with that description — Bobby Jindal? Newt Gingrich? Maybe call in Jeb Bush? It’s called the double end around play. Reconciliation between House and Senate bills.
The point of this lesson is that the trick is in the details — and by trying to make the Democrats look weak, they can turn the table and make the Republicans look even weaker by having passed these cuts to begin with. Sure some Dems voted for it — with a gun put to their head to get an increased debt ceiling so we didn’t default on our obligations. Not going into sequestration to start would have been the smart move. But who can accuse these cronies of being smart?
Fortunately, there’s still time before irreparable damage has been done to pass a simple bill rescinding the sequestration portion of the 2011 budget bill — called the 2013 Budget Adjustment Bill. It may take a week or so — right now Congress has no skin in this fight. Their salaries are guaranteed not to be touched. So they’re not in any hurry. We Americans are, but we’ll have to wait it out for the bar bet to be called a draw, and then we go right back to where we were. Both sides blinking at the same time.
So let’s patiently watch this bet play out. If done right, the status quo will return. If done wrong, the Democrats lose and we along with them. So grab a bar stool and let’s see if I’m right. Wanna bet?
For the past 25 years, David Garber has been serving as the show runner and or writer on some of television’s biggest hits… Saved By The Bell, Power Rangers, 227, Bill Cosby Show and many other network series. His writing and producing have also netted David two very prestigious awards:the PRISM AWARD and the TV CRITICS AWARD – TV SPECIAL OF THE YEAR. Currently he’s authoring a short story series called “A Few Minutes With…”